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and the heart-broken father-earth gibbering whilst heaven is rent with sulphurous and thought-executing fires '-fools and wits, innocent and guilty, high and low, kings and pickpockets, the proud and the mean, the noble and ignoble—this is the warp and woof—the tangled web of good and evil composing what men call the world, and set forth by Shakspeare to his contemporaries. With so broad and varied a theme as thisso terrible, pathetic, ridiculous, vulgar, and sublime, the heroic of Sidney is incompatible. Rather it shrinks into nothing on the comparison; and the life of the imaginary is less full of wonders than of the ordinary hero of every day. * One more characteristic has to be noticed which stamps Shakspeare especially as an Englishman, and an Englishman of the reign of Elizabeth: and this is the prominence given by him to his female characters, their variety, and the important part assigned to them in his dramas. It has been said that, if Shakspeare paints no heroes, the women are heroines. If in Spenser the knights fail to accomplish those enterprises which are accomplished for them by the other sex ; if Una and Britomart and Belphæbe are the guides and the advisers of their different champions ; if male courage is unsexed except it be regulated by purest devotion to women; in Shakspeare, Imogen, Hermione, and Desdemona stand forth in shining contrast to their faithless, wavering, and suspicious consorts. But in Spenser woman is little else than ideal; she is too good for human nature's daily food and daily infirmities. Shakspeare's women are strictly real; their very infirmities, like the tears of Achilles, are not a foil, but an ornament to their perfections; their failings spring from the root of their virtues. The criticism which condemns Desdemona and Juliet is as monstrous as it is mistaken. The women in Shakspeare suffer as they suffer in the world and in real life, because, in following the true instincts of true nature, they fall sacrifices to the experience, the selfishness, the caprices of the stronger sex. If parents are careless and imperious like Brabantio, or impure and worldly like old Capulet and Polonius, Shakspeare saw too well that such muddy cisterns, hide their corruptions as they will, cannot prevent the subtle contagion of their own ill-doings from staining the pure fountains of their household. Youth pierces through their flimsy disguisings with a sharp and divine instinct wholly hidden from their purblind vision. With the exception of Lady Macbeth, there is no female character in Shakspeare which comes near the atrocities of lago or Richard III. The fierce natural affection of the injured Constance excuses her occasional excesses; the weakness of Ann, like the palpitating bird, is not proof against the basilisk-like
power power and fascination of Richard III.; Miranda falls in love at first sight with a being she has dressed up in her own perfections; even Lady Macbeth has steeled her nature above that of her sex in admiration and devotion to her husband. Look out upon the world, and the same is going on every day: woman complying with the law of her creation, and man transgressing his.
And as Shakspeare differs from previous dramatists in his conception and representation of the real, not the colourless ideal, of woman, he equally differs from Ben Jonson, from Beaumont and Fletcher, with their mere animal instincts and their coarser delineation of the purpose and destiny of woman. Nor is it merely in the purity, refinement, and feminine grace of his female characters that the great dramatist so far surpasses his contemporaries ; for. The Virgin Martyr' of Massinger, and “The Faithful Shepherdess' of Fletcher, though rare and unusual, have something of the same excellence ; but the woman's nature and instincts are never lost sight of by the poet. If faith, love, constancy, purity, are beautiful even in the abstract, they are more beautiful still in the concrete; and the hardness of the abstract is rounded off when they are presented to us not as fixed and isolated qualities or all-absorbing influences, but in the tenderness, weakness, and alternations of flesh and blood. The heroism of strength may delight the hero-worshipper; but the heroism of weakness is far more human and attractive. The faint resolve, springing forth as a tiny blade from unpromising ground—now seemingly contending unequally against the blast—now gaining unseen strength and vigour from the contest;—the moral purpose exposed to the storm of passion and the inveiglement of temptation ; like a frail craft at sea—now hidden by the wavesnow apparently foundering hopelessly—then rising to the storm
-creating in the spectator the contending tumults of pity, hope, and fear-appealing to the strongest and inexhaustible sympathies in the hearts of men—these are the triumphs of the dramatic poet. And it is in this exhibition of mortal strength and weakness, whether in man or woman, that Shakspeare excels, even in his less complex characters; whilst in the impersonation of a character of more complex elements, such as Cleopatra, any comparison of the great master with any writer of fiction, in ancient or in modern times, would be altogether absurd. What must that imagination have been that could conceive, or that power which could so perfectly delineate, three such types of womankind as Juliet, Desdemona, and Cleopatra ? Whose but his, who, without losing his own personality, seeing with other men's eyes, and feeling with other men's feelings, understood the universal heart of man, and has become the tongue and voice of universal humanity ?
But we must forbear. If there be one omission in the great dramatist, if we have one cause of complaint against him, it is his almost rigid, his Baconian, resolution not to look beyond the region of human experience: for to this remark we cannot consider his fairies, witches, and ghosts, his Ariel or his Caliban, as forming any exception. In his days, at all events, popular faith in these ultra-human creations accepted them as beings of this world. But, when we compare Shakspeare with Spenser; when we consider how brief is the interval separating him from Luther, how deeply and how recently the religious heart of England had been stirred; how all her noblest sons had associated trust in God with loyalty to their nation and their sovereign ; we wonder why the poet should never have exhibited the influences of religious faith and resignation, or so cursorily or so coldly as scarcely to deserve the name. Men and women are made to drain the cup of misery to the dregs; but as from the depths into which they have fallen by their own weakness or the wickedness of others, the poet never raises them, in violation of the inexorable laws of nature, so neither does he put a new song' into their mouths, or any expression of confidence in God's righteous dealing. With as precise and hard a hand as Lord Bacon did he sunder the celestial from the terrestrial globe, the things of earth from those of heaven; resolutely and sternly refusing to look beyond the limits of this world, to borrow comfort in suffering and injustice from the life to come. Such expressions of faith might be out of place in ‘Macbeth,'or • Cordelia,' or · Lear;' but we should have expected them in Richard II, and his queen, in Desdemona, and still more in Hamlet, who had been a student at Wittenberg. Yet Hamlet, who had pondered more than most men on the great questions of life and the destiny of man, when unexpectedly overtaken by death, has nothing more to say than those ominous words : •The rest is silence!' Even the vindication of God's order and judgment, of which he is made the instrument, leaves him as darkling as it finds him. Must we then think that the godly spirit and faith of Luther had departed ? that Protestantism had failed as well as Romanism ? or that Shakspeare, in thus ignoring the great central truth, like Bacon, was, like Bacon, unconsciously exhibiting the Calvinistic tendency, the downward and disorganizing progress of his age, by substituting man for God as the great centre of this universe, as the sole and engrossing subject of human interest?
ART. II.—The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.
By Charles Darwin, M.A., F.R.S., &c. 2 vols. London, 1871. TN Mr. Darwin's last work we possess at length a complete and 1 thorough exposition of his matured views. He gives us the results of the patient labour of many years' unremitting investigation and of the application of a powerful and acute intellect, combined with an extraordinarily active imagination, to an unequalled collection of most varied, interesting and important biological data. In his earlier writings a certain reticence veiled, though it did not hide, his ultimate conclusions as to the origin of our own species; but now all possibility of misunderstanding or of a repetition of former disclaimers on the part of any disciple is at an end, and the entire and naked truth as to the logical consequences of Darwinism is displayed with a frankness which we had a right to expect from the distinguished author. What was but obscurely hinted in the Origin of Species’ is here fully and fairly stated in all its bearings and without disguise. Mr. Darwin has, in fact, crowned the edifice,' and the long looked for and anxiously awaited detailed statement of his views as to the human race is now unreservedly put before us.
We rise from the careful perusal of this book with mingled feelings of admiration and disappointment. The author's style is clear and attractive-clearer than in his earlier works—and his desire to avoid every kind of conscious misrepresentation is as conspicuous as ever. The number of interesting facts brought forward is as surprising as is the ingenuity often displayed in his manipulation of them. Under these circumstances it is a most painful task to have to point out grave defects and serious shortcomings. Mr. Darwin, however, seems in his recent work even more than in his earlier productions to challenge criticism, and to have thrown out ideas and suggestions with a distinct view to their subsequent modification by others. It is but an act of fairness to call attention to this :
• False facts,' says Mr. Darwin, "are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often long endure; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, as every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falscness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.' - Descent of Man, vol. ii. p. 385.
Although we are unable to agree entirely with Mr. Darwin in this remark, it none the less contains an undoubted truth. We cannot agree, because we feel that a false theory which keenly solicits the imagination, put forward by a writer widely and deservedly esteemed, and which reposes on a multitude of facts difficult to verify, skilfully interwoven, and exceedingly hard to unravel, is likely to be very prejudicial to science. Nevertheless, science cannot make progress without the action of two distinct classes of thinkers: the first consisting of men of creative genius, who strike out brilliant hypotheses, and who may be spoken of as 'theorizers' in the good sense of the word ; the second, of men possessed of the critical faculty, and who test, mould into shape, perfect or destroy, the hypotheses thrown out by the former class.
Obviously important as it is that there should be such theorizers, it is also most important that criticism should clearly point out when a theory is really proved, when it is but probable, and when it is a mere arbitrary hypothesis. This is all the more necessary if, as may often and very easily happen, from being repeatedly spoken of, and being connected with celebrated and influential names, it is likely to be taken for very much more than it is really worth.
The necessity of caution in respect to this is clearly shown by Mr. Darwin's present work, in which sexual selection,' from being again and again referred to as if it had been proved to be a vera causa, may readily be accepted as such by the uninstructed or careless reader. For many persons, at first violently opposed through ignorance or prejudice to Mr. Darwin's views, are now, with scarcely less ignorance and prejudice, as strongly inclined in their favour.
Mr. Darwin's recent work, supplementing and completing, as it does, his earlier publications, offers a good opportunity for reviewing his whole position. We shall thus be better able to estimate the value of his convictions regarding the special subject of his present inquiry. We shall first call attention to his earlier statements, in order that we may see whether he has modified his views, and, if so, how far and with what results. If he has, even by his own showing and admission, been overhasty and seriously mistaken previously, we must be the more careful how we commit ourselves to his guidance now. We shall endeavour to show that Mr. Darwin's convictions have undergone grave modifications, and that the opinions adopted by him now are quite distinct from, and even subversive of, the views he originally put forth. The assignment of the law of natural selection' to a subordinate position is virtually an abandonment of the Darwinian theory; for the one distinguishing feature of that theory was the all-sufficiency of natural selection. Not